I attended the Super Bowl on Sunday, my first time at football’s and corporate America’s greatest spectacle of the year. In light of this once-in-a-lifetime experience, I thought I’d depart from the usual commentary about tech business news and share just a few of my thoughts from a momentous day.
Technology was very much on my mind as I entered Levi’s Stadium, also for the first time. I’m glad to report that for all the vaunted techno-spiffiness of the building, what its builders got most right had nothing to do with the digital world. With gorgeous sight lines from multiple angles, Levi’s Stadium is a great place to watch football.
Technology affects how one watches the game though. Massive monitors with stunning high-definition clarity pose a challenge: Watch the physical players on the field or their likenesses magnified on screen? (I typically chose to watch the real game first and televised re-play second.) Then there was the comical and frustrating tendency of fans to stare into their phones while the biggest game of the year played out in front of them. I tried my best to avoid such behavior—until I saw the woman in front of me Facetiming someone. It immediately occurred to me that my 84-year-old father, a lifelong football fan and recently the proud owner of his first iPhone, would love to see the action from my perspective. He was delighted.
A word on branding. Most professional stadiums look like trade expos for all the ads plastered on every available wall. I counted precisely four brands visible from my seat: Levi’s, Pepsi, SAP (the enterprise software company whose software the stadium’s home team, the 49ers, uses), and Bud Light. (This Adweek article notes other brand presence in the stadium.) I couldn’t help but think that allowing so few brands to have major positions showed tremendous restraint by the stadium’s management.
It was a day I’ll never forget, and for the record, I enjoyed the game as much as the halftime show.
Recommended reading: Any business manager trying to balance complicated constituencies will enjoy this masterful profile of Roger Goodell by the graceful feature writer (and football fan) Marc Leibovich.
BITS AND BYTES
Verizon deal could save Yahoo $12 billion in taxes. The massive telecommunications company—which bought AOL last year—has emerged as a credible potential bidder for the struggling Internet company’s core assets. It’s not interested in Yahoo’s hefty stake in Chinese tech giant Alibaba, according to various reports. Such a deal would leave the door open for Alibaba to buy the remaining Yahoo “shell.” The tax implications of such a transaction would be far less onerous than the one Yahoo currently faces, according to tax experts. (Fortune)
Viacom doubles down with Snapchat. Viacom, the only television company with the rights to sell advertising for the mobile app, agreed to extend the length of that relationship. The two signed a “multi-year” arrangement, one that should be discussed during Viacom’s earnings call Tuesday. The deal plays into Snapchat’s expansion into media through new programs and other original content. (Reuters)
Zenefits founder resigns as CEO, board posts in shake-up over compliance. Parker Conrad, whose brash style helped his company earn a whopping $4.5 billion valuation, is taking the fall for sloppy internal policies that have left Zenefits open to regulatory scrutiny. He was replaced by Yammer founder David Sacks, the company’s COO, who vowed to clean up the health insurance startup quickly. “Some decisions have just been plain wrong,” Sacks wrote in his open letter to Zenefits customers and employees. (Fortune, New York Times)
Facebook faces French privacy crackdown. The social networking giant has three months to comply with several new demands—including one that requires it to seek explicit consent for gathering data about a person’s religious beliefs or sexual orientation. It has also been forbidden from sending personal information to the United States. Five European nations—France, Spain, Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands—are formally investigating Facebook. (Fortune, Reuters)
Watch Cisco’s earnings closely. The giant networking equipment company, scheduled to report financial results on Wednesday, anticipates a 1.5% decrease in revenue for its January-ended quarter. Analysts and investors are concerned about what Cisco will say about economic conditions in emerging markets, especially China. Its guidance could further exacerbate the tech stock sell-off. (Reuters)
More drones than airplanes. More than 325,000 people have registered flying robots with the Federal Aviation Administration, since the database started in December. That’s more than the 320,000 “piloted” airplanes at the agency has on file. The requirement is meant to help curb illegal flyovers that threaten public safety. (Fortune)
Google’s CEO receives $199 million stock grant. Sundar Pichai was awarded 273,328 Class C shares in tech giant Alphabet, according to a Feb. 3 filing. (The original value was almost $200 million, but has slipped to $182 million because of market turmoil.) That brings the total value of Pichai’s Google equity stake to almost $600 million. It also makes him one of the tech industry’s best-paid executives. (Wall Street Journal)
PayPal loses chief technology officer. James Barrese, who has led technology strategy since the company’s split with eBay last year, is resigning effective April 1. His position was split in two—one focused on global platform and infrastructure, and the other concentrated on digital payment services. (ZDNet)
Yelp logs another loss, CFO resigns. Yelp, which specializes in reviews for local businesses, is struggling to sell its advertising in the shadow of Google. The revenue increase for its fourth quarter was slightly better than expected, especially for its mobile business. Yelp’s stock took a hit, however, after disclosing its CFO will resign in the near future. (Re/code, Wall Street Journal)
The good news is a huge company just bought your app. Now, the bad news. Most of us have apps on our phones and tablets that we can’t live without. Many come from hungry, up-and-coming startups which tend to be more innovative and fast-to-market than elephantine companies. So when one of those ginormous-if-slow companies gobbles up our favorite startup (and its product progeny) we hope for the best but in our heart of hearts we know that our app, after a respectable period of time, is a goner. Yes, we’re looking at you, Facebook and Microsoft. (Fortune)
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
What’s wrong with algorithmic filtering on Twitter by Mathew Ingram
Amazon has twice as many employees as Apple by Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Social data startup Sysomoso combines monitoring, management tools
by Heather Clancy
DataGravity trims workforce by Barb Darrow
How China will support e-sports and virtual reality revenues
by John Gaudiosi
You can be successful working fewer than 50 hours a week
by Laura Vanderkam
Apple is selling a new-age View-Master by Don Reisinger
Why beloved toy brand LeapFrog is jumping to VTech by Chris Morris